FINE ART ATELIER: 07 | Raudfjordan, Svalbard

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Raudfjordan is one of the locations you might visit if you took a voyage around Svalbard in the Arctic. The orange rocks in the foreground are quite small, but by using a wide-angle lens, a close camera stand-point and focus-stacking, an interesting and moody composition has been arranged. We follow the processing steps through Capture One and Photoshop to completion.


FINE ART ATELIER: 07 | Steeple Jason

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Steeple Jason is a small island in the north of the Falkland Islands. If you watch nature programs, you might have seen David Attenborough visiting it to see the world's largest colony of black-browed albatross. Certainly this was a highlight of our landing, but for me as a landscape photographer, even more exciting was this wonderful location and I spent most of my time refining and finessing what I hoped would create a strong composition.

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. Two quite separate processes are involved: that of pre-visualising the image, and that of rendering it in Photoshop.


KNOWLEDGE: 07 | Colour Temperature

Colour temperature. Colour balance. Colour cast. Colour in landscape photography is critical for producing a realistic rendition, but it is equally important for interpreting or idealising the landscape. Slight changes in the colour of the photograph can greatly affect the impression our viewers have. A simple example is to compare a slightly orange landscape with one that is slightly blue. The warm orange colours are inviting and comforting, whereas the cool blue colours can appear distant, unwelcoming and even somewhat evil!
So what is colour temperature/balance/cast? Colour temperature is the colour of light.
Sunlight in the middle of the day is considered to have a neutral or white colour. When you photograph under a neutral or white light, then the colours in your photograph look natural.
However, if the colour of the light isn’t white, your photos may end up with a colour cast that either makes them look better or worse, depending on whether or not you like the colour cast produced.
For instance, sunlight at sunrise or sunset can have a yellow or even red colour. Indirect sunlight passing through clouds has a blue colour.
Inside our homes, different types of light bulbs and lamps emit different colours. Tungsten bulbs are generally very orange or amber, while fluorescent lights can be quite green. However, indoor lighting is becoming more sophisticated and you can often buy lighting that is said to be like ‘daylight’, by which is meant the light is ‘white’ or neutral.
So, white light from a technical perspective is a good thing. What happens if the light isn’t white?
Generally, we don’t notice the different colours of light, unless we’re watching fireworks or a theatre concert. Our brains adapt to the colour of the light based, to some extent, on our expectations.
For instance, a fence painted white looks white under midday sunlight. However, later in the afternoon when the sunlight is yellow or even red, we will still perceive that fence as being white. Our brains filter the light for us.
So can our cameras. The automatic white balance setting (which is found on all digital cameras) measures the colour of the light and then adjusts the colour balance in the photograph to produce a neutral result.
Is this a good thing? Not always.
When we photograph in late afternoon light, our images should end up with a nice, ‘warm’ colour cast, but they might not. All the atmosphere and mood of the afternoon could be filtered out by both our brains and the camera, yet if you look at a book of landscape photography, what makes so many of them great photos is the fact they have a yellow-orange colour cast.
Which sort of photograph do you want to have?

Is this the correct colour balance for your scene? Or the cooler colour balance below?

In many situations, we can just leave our cameras set to the automatic white balance setting and the colour in our photographs will look just fine. On the other hand, if you want to take control over the colour casts in your photographs, a good starting point is the white balance setting.

How To Use The White Balance Setting

The white balance setting in your camera usually has a number of settings, such as: Automatic, Tungsten, Daylight, Cloud, Shade, Custom.
When the white balance is set to Automatic, the camera measures the colour temperature of the light and then sets the ‘white balance’ to produce a neutral result. If it measures the light as being orange, it will set the white balance to remove some orange.
Sometimes the camera has difficulties determining the white balance, so if you know what type of light you’re working in, you can set the white balance manually. If you’re taking photographs indoors under tungsten lighting, set the white balance to tungsten and the colour in your photographs will look natural. If it’s an overcast, dreary day and you’re photographing outside, set the white balance setting to cloudy.
Although the manual white balance setting mightn’t match exactly the colour temperature of the light, it will be close enough.

Overriding The White Balance

However, there may be times when you don’t want a ‘white’ or ‘neutral’ colour balance. Perhaps you want the white fence to have a golden glow when you photograph it at sunset.
The easiest way to force your camera to record the colour that is actually there is to set the camera to its neutral setting – to the daylight white balance setting.
If you're shooting JPEGs with your camera, then the white balance setting will have a permanent effect on your file. It can be very difficult to remove or change an incorrect colour temperature setting from a JPEG file.
In comparison, if you're shooting raw (and hopefully everyone is shooting raw), setting the white balance in your cameras doesn’t have a permanent effect on the raw file. When you open your raw file in ADC in Photoshop, Lightroom or Capture One, the initial setting might be the same as the camera setting, but you can change the colour temperature using the many controls available in the software. Let's look at this in more detail.

Editing Colour Temperature

Editing a photo’s colour balance on your computer can be fiddly. It’s easy to see that the colour isn’t quite right, but harder to fix it.
When you set your camera to capture JPEG files, the white balance (e.g. auto, daylight, tungsten, shade etc) is recorded with the photo and changes the overall colour balance. However, even with the correct white balance setting, JPEG photographs can need adjusting on the computer to get the colour balance exactly right.
When you’re capturing raw files, setting the white balance in the camera isn’t so important because you have full control over white balance when you process the raw file on your computer.
The camera’s white balance setting, although it might be recorded with the raw file, needn’t have an effect on the raw file itself (unlike a JPEG which is permanently affected by the white balance setting).

Raw Colour Control

When you open up a raw file in a raw processor (like Adobe Camera Raw via Photoshop or Lightroom), one of the controls is the White Balance eyedropper. Using it, click on a neutral grey or white area and watch the colour change on screen.
You can also change the white balance by moving the Temperature and Tint sliders, but it’s important to have a correctly calibrated colour monitor to ensure you’re seeing accurate colours.
While this approach works well generally, it isn’t foolproof and there can be times when you will have to manually adjust the colour temperature.
So how do the professionals manage colour balance?

Grey Cards and Expodiscs

The most accurate way to ensure the correct colour balance is to include something in one of the photographs with a known colour. Usually this is a ‘grey card’ and it is called this because that’s exactly what it is: a card painted neutral 18% grey. So, when you're at a location, you take a 'test' photo by holding up a grey card in front of the camera, or walking into the scene and placing the grey card somewhere prominent before taking a photo. Remove the grey card and take your hero photographs!
Using the test photo, the process during post-production is the same as before, except instead of looking for a neutral area in the photograph, you click on the grey card. In many cases, this is an extremely accurate method.
After using the white balance picker, take a note of the colour temperature and tint settings, then apply these settings to all your other photographs taken under the same lighting conditions (but without the grey card in the frame!).
The Expodisc works like a filter and is placed over the lens. Take an exposure under the same lighting conditions as your subject, then continue photographing.
When you process your photos, first open the file taken with the Expodisc – it will be a plain grey image. Use your grey or white balance eye dropper to set the white balance, then apply the same setting to the rest of your images.
Most programs allow you to save settings like white balance and apply them to a number of other images, speeding up the process.
And when using the Expodisc, many cameras allow you to set the white balance from this exposure, but this may only be of use if you’re shooting JPEG files, not raw files. Read the section in your camera manual that explains how to set a custom white balance - this feature is available on most DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
White balance can also be set by your computer’s software when opening a raw file. This is because a raw file hasn’t yet been told what the colour temperature was, so you can set it in the raw conversion software (such as Photoshop ACR or Capture One). Even better, you can set it visually. However, when shooting JPEGs, set the white balance correctly in the camera because it’s harder to change later on the computer.


POST PRODUCTION: 07 | Vignetting

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I am a big advocate of vignetting an image. Without a little vignetting, many photographs appear under-cooked, especially landscapes. And of course, you can also use a heavier vignette technique as part of your style or to make an image look more dramatic. Here are three ways you can tackle vignetting in your post-production process.



LOCATION SURVEY: 07 | Easter Island

When I visited Antarctica recently, there was an option to stop-over on Easter Island and I was sorely tempted. However, being away for a whole month was already long enough, so I put it on the back-burner for another time.

The reason I was so tempted was because my wife Kathie and I spent two weeks on Easter Island around 20 years ago. We were on a six week journey around the Americas and this was our first port of call. I can remember thinking I would never get there because a few weeks before we were planning to leave, I broke my heel and couldn't walk. However, a month or so later we were on our way to what felt like an amazingly magical and mystical place.

And it was. But before I show you any more photos, I want to explain why they are going to look a little different. The following images were shot on Kodachrome 64 using a Minolta 35mm SLR camera. They were scanned around ten years ago, but there is a lot of contrast in them - I'm sure a better scan would improve them. I also took a 4x5" view camera and shot on Ektachrome 100. The image above is scanned from a 4x5" tranny and then post-produced in Photoshop. It's quality is much, much better than the following images.

Many years ago now, the Salvation Army charity in Australia asked if I would provide them with photos for their calendar. The print run was over 50,000, so I wanted to be sure the pics were of high quality. At that stage, I had about nine different countries I had shot digitally (with my Canon EOS 1Ds and EOS 1Ds Mk II), but I had to dive into my film archives for the other four. The problem I discovered was the 35mm slides I had, even when drum-scanned, couldn't match the quality of my digital files. I had to pull my 4x5" trannies out and scan them! It was an interesting exercise.


The central volcano on Easter Island, home of the moai.

Easter Island is the most isolated island on Earth, but it has a very good runway which, I am told, was put in place by the Americans for the Space Shuttle. Certainly the airport itself was nothing much and from memory the population was around 2,600. Today it is still under 4,000, so apart from the tourists, there's not a huge need for an expensive airport and where are you going to hide on an island 25 kilometres long anyway? (However, the airport has been greatly upgraded since my first trip!)

At the time there was only one hotel, but talk of a Club Med being built. I don't believe that has happened. (However, there is an explora Hotel there which is wonderful!) I also remember the food being rather average, but I have to confess that Kathie and I are vegetarians, so the prospect of lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner wasn't of great interest. Other people with a more general palate have found the cuisine to be excellent!

We hired a small four-wheel drive for US$50 a day, which seemed exorbitant at the time considering how far you could drive. By the end of the two weeks, we knew pretty much every crook and cranny on the island.


 Some wonderful cloudscape would roll through in the afternoons.

Many people have wondered how we spent so much time there. Kathie is a graphic designer and an artist (she is the art director for Better Photography magazine), so she was happy to wander around, sketch and draw. The only thing she wasn't so happy about was waking up for the dawn light!

Today, access is far more restricted, but I remember finding human bones at the base of some of the moai (stone heads), and walking through ancient lava tubes that ended as windows in vertical cliff faces with the waves crashing far below.

It was also fascinating to read about the history of the island, the long ears and short ears, and how they are believed to have wiped themselves out. There have been several movies made about some of the strange customs, including the birdmen and their race to bring back bird eggs from a small islet off the coast. Truth is stranger than fiction (at the risk of repeating myself).


 The caldera on the south western tip of the island.


You can shoot the statues in many different locations, standing, fallen and partially cut-out of the quarry from where they came. A different quarry provided the red tufa capstones - the headdresses worn by the moai. The calderas are fascinating, the coastline wild and exciting... it might be just a speck on the map, but there is plenty there for a landscape photographer.

It used to be possible to stop on Easter Island for just a few hours, long enough to drive around and say you've seen the statues, but as photographers the fun will be in waiting for the light and capturing some wonderfully exotic landscapes. In fact, the more I write about it, the more I want to go back!

This moai stands above a beach that was to be turned into a Club Med resort. This didn't happen, but now there are rangers and fences that will stop you from getting this angle.


PHOTO ADVICE: 07 | Critique Session

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During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 07 | Setting Up A Photo Website

Setting up a website is a lot of fun and there are lots of options to play with. Probably the easiest way to get your photographs up onto the web is to organise an Instagram or Facebook account and start uploading your photos. 
Instagram is designed for photography and has many advantages built in. It is free, it has a lot of traffic (but you can get lost in the crowd – there is no substitute for organising your own marketing), and it is extremely easy to use. Facebook is similar, but perhaps not as conducive to displaying photography in an artistic way as Instagram.

So, if you want to play on the most popular photo platform, that's probably Instagram. So, you don't need your own website, just an account. 
However, while it is really easy to get your photographs up onto a web page, are these community sites the same as having your very own website?

Business Basics

The downside of the community sites is you're stuck with their format. If you can fit into their format, then it's hard to beat the price. On the other hand, if you can afford to spend a little per month (from $5 to $50), you can have a much more sophisticated solution.
Will you get that money back? Not necessarily. Just putting up a website doesn't mean anyone is going to visit it! Think about how you use the internet. Chances are you visit Google, type in a question or a word and visit one of the first few pages that come up. Try typing in 'fine art' or 'landscape' photography and see how many listings there are!
A website is an essential business tool, but on its own it is not a business solution. It needs you to market it, to tell people that your website exists and direct traffic towards it. Then, once people are there, you have to make it interesting and compelling. And you have to ask people to buy!
One photographer who is doing this very well is Eugene Tan who runs the aquabumps.com.au website. Eugene takes photos down at his local beach (Bondi) and posts them on his website daily. He also sends out an email to 100,000-odd people (might be more than this by now) with a surf report and a few photographs. And the reports are posted on Facebook, Instagram and so on. So, lots of people get to see his photos, but more importantly, it is very easy to buy them.
Eugene also has a gallery at Bondi so you can see the prints physically. I find that many people like to see a real print before buying one off the internet. Most of the sales from my website are from people who have seen my work, either at an exhibition or in a magazine, so they know the quality first hand. Either that or they know someone who has seen my work. It's a trust thing. However, this trend is changing – you don't have to have a physical gallery to make sales, but you might find your sales are much higher if you did.
However, most readers aren't looking to earn a full time living from their work just yet, so to make a few sales over the internet would be rewarding enough. Yes, a website can help you do it, but you need to market yourself in other ways as well.
So, how do you make a personal website? There are three options:
1. Buy a template website;
2. Hire someone to build you a website;
3. Build the website yourself.

Template Sites

Template websites are a great starting point. While there are restrictions in terms of layout and features, there is greater flexibility in design than with Flickr or Facebook. You can add your own logos, colours and text, and all website solutions offer a variety of template designs.
One company popular with photographers is www.zenfolio.com. It is as little as US $5 per month, but I believe that includes everything you need. They also offer a 14 day free trial – check out the site for full details. 
How easy is it to use? Essentially you sign up on the website and you're taken to a series of pages that ask you to type in your name, upload your logo and photographs, and make some decisions about colour and design. Bingo. Your site is now live! Plus you can come back and change the look of your site or update the photographs any time you please.
Template sites are a good solution.

Hire Someone

Many professional photographers hire someone to build a website for them. This is the most expensive solution, but having said that, website builders can use 'building blocks' which make it very quick and easy to put a website together.
Two great examples are Wordpress and Joomla. Wordpress is great because it is built as a blog and handles photographs really well. There is also a huge resource of additional components that you can add in. Joomla is similar and this website you are viewing now is built with it.
However, to put a Wordpress or Joomla site together is a bit more complicated than just setting it up. My advice would be to pay someone to build you a site that you like the look of, but ensure that you can easily add and remove photographs yourself. What you're looking for is a 'content management' website where you provide the content and the website software does all the rest.

Build It Yourself

My old petereastway.com website was designed by me and I spent hours doing it. I learnt the basics of html and CSS (cascading style sheets). I also learnt as much as I could bear to about PHP, MySQL and other dark arts. Then I learnt how to use Dreamweaver so I could put all this into practice. If you're inclined to learn new skills, then website development can be a lot of fun, but I have to admit that most photographers don't make great programmers.
Once my site was finished, I then found myself spending too much time updating it, so I went to a website builder and had him turn it into a content management system. However, even that was too expensive and I moved to Zenfolio! Thinking back on it, I don't recommend photographers DIY - spend the time processing your photos instead and let someone else do the website!
There's a lot to the internet, but the good news is that it's getting easier and easier all the time. If you can handle Photoshop and your web browser, there are solutions for creating your own website that aren't that much more difficult.